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Cricket news - Australia's True Blue moment
For those not Australian, True Blue is a folk song that is about being Australian. The lyrics, loaded with the kind of slang undecipherable for those not living Down Under, are mainly a bunch of questions about the values and qualities that composer John Williamson wonders constitutes a "true blue" Australian.
And though it's become a sort of an Australian identity since its release in 1982 - played everywhere from national rallies to state funerals - there is a school of thought, championed by Williamson himself, that its true meaning is widely misunderstood. That it was never supposed to be a song with any jingoistic connotations, as many not in favour of it have suggested, or an all-Australian musical emblem - much like Jai Ho wasn't, and Born in the USA isn't for the respective countries they represent. Ironic then that the tune you hear welcoming the players on to the ground across England, Jerusalem, was originally a William Blake poem which wasn't quite meant to be as patriotic an ode to the nation as it has since become.
True Blue though does happen to be unofficial anthem of the Australian cricket team, and has been ever since Steve Waugh was in-charge of the dressing-room. And as it echoed around an empty Old Trafford, under lights, while being crooned at different pitches and keys by every member of the Australian camp, including Glenn McGrath who joined in as a special guest invitee, there was no doubt about what it stood for.
Here were a group of very true blue Aussie cricketers raucously celebrating having retained their most cherished prize in their sport in their arch-rivals' backyard. There was no doubt about why they were singing it. They couldn't have felt more Australian at that moment. But the sincerity with which they, McGrath and Waugh included, sang and swayed to True Blue, which blared from the mobile stereo, was actually the extent of their apparent misunderstanding of the song's real meaning. Not like it mattered to them.
The Ashes had been retained in England for the first time since 2001 - when Waugh, Langer and McGrath all played a role - and Tim Paine & Co weren't going to hold back in screaming their lungs out and celebrate it in true blue Aussie fashion. By the time they re-emerged on the field at Old Trafford - some four hours after they'd ensured the urn would stay Down Under - plenty of beers and champagne had been consumed.
And first came two to three renditions of the anthem with McGrath taking his shoes and socks off at the boundary's edge before joining the melee. For good measure, the former fast bowling legend was serenaded with impromptu slogans of "Oooh aah Glenn McGrath, Ooh aah Glenn McGrath..." At one point, they jumped on Peter Siddle for having accidentally turned the music off.
Nathan Lyon then took over from the centre of the huddle giving a brief speech of what the victory meant to him and how it'd been his dream. He then pulled Steve Smith into the middle with him and spoke about how the premier batsman had overcome so much and was still the best in the world, while taking a loaded potshot towards the media box. He then drenched Smith in champagne before more shouting, bellowing and boisterous laughter. It was then time for Lyon to orchestrate the team song, Under the Southern Cross, which was done duly with the chorus sung twice.
There were a few high-spirited taunts directed at how they'd defeated England too - with Smith mock-mimicking Jack Leach with glasses and all - as Mitchell Marsh got them the entire group to do 15 push-ups in tandem. Then more hugs and embraces, with some members of the touring party, players and support staff alike, diving into each other's arms like children. The dream had been accomplished. The outpouring of joy was unabashed, and the party you could sense was just warming up as they finally exited the field still creating a celebratory ruckus - indulging in verbal jousting with each other in that very true blue Aussie fashion.
There might be some who might have misunderstood or misread the Aussie lot that has come to these shores this time around. They're here on the back of an 18-month period where Australian cricket had tried its best to put the events of Cape Town behind them while welcoming back those who'd been found guilty of perpetrating those events.
Even as the crowds in Birmingham, and the Barmy Army everywhere since except at Lord's, have continued to declare that they are the, "Same ol Aussies, always cheating.." Paine's Smith-powered motley crew haven't quite been like the "same ol Aussies", not in attitude or approach. They looked and sounded like true blue Aussies, but they played differently.
Of course this is not to defend them against the wrath of the English fans. For they had been caught cheating and been duly punished. But while Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft served their bans, Australian cricket had gone through a drastic transformation with regards to its image in the cricket world. The snarly Aussies had become the sober Australians, and if you think there has been a slight shift back to their old ways in terms of exchanging sweet nothings with the opposition, then just blame it on the Ashes and the intensity it brings with it.
Unlike Aussie teams of the past, they've managed to put their "ego" aside, as Paine would say later, and not be stressed about playing any particular "brand" of cricket. They've instead planned better and focused on not being as true blue as their predecessors when it comes to plotting success on English soil. Rather than push and force the issue like Australian pace attacks in particular over the last few tours have tried to do with the full backing of captain and coach, Paine's high-quality attack have preferred to be boring, looking to nick out batsmen rather than knock them over.
Like they did on Sunday (September 8), even at times when the English lower-order threatened to evoke the spirit of Leeds. And like he's done all series, it was Paine who made sure his team never deviated from the plan. He did so by being proactive with constant bowling changes - he made 24 between the drinks break in the middle session and the end which included numerous one-over spells - and also in subtle fielding alterations when he felt his bowlers were getting carried away.
Twice he moved silly-point out and put him at gully to both Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc, when he feared they were going overboard with the short-pitched attack, and it immediately made the difference. It was a sign of how both Paine and his team had bounced back from the shock of Headingley. They'd put it behind them, just like they have the misadventures they'd endured on and off the field in the year-and-a-half period prior to that. Here, like has been their diktat, they didn't play on emotion and didn't show any till the game was done and the Ashes had been retained.
There'd been more a collective outbreak of relief followed by an outpouring of jubilation back when the game had been won. Paine's first reaction to the big screen showing three reds on the DRS ball-tracker was to run away from the rest of his team rather than towards them. As Craig Overton slumped to his haunches in the background, Paine threw a punch in the air and then another one that nearly cleaned up the Spidercam.
That was followed by the first set of hugs and embraces, which would be repeated endlessly throughout the rest of the evening, and there were a few tears too, especially from the captain. There was extreme elation on the balcony too as even Langer for a change seemed to break the shackles and let his emotions break free. Captain and coach would spend a good 30 seconds in each other's grasps as Paine buried his head into Langer's shoulder.
Langer would then ascend the steps and wait on the balcony to give each of his players a bear-hug before ushering them into the dressing-room.
"Is it standin' by your mate when he's in a fight?" Williamson asks about being a real Australian in the most poignant query in True Blue. The answer on that front for Paine & Co would be a resounding yes. The least-rated and least gung-ho Australian side to tour here had ended up bullying England into surrendering their quest for the urn at home for the first time in nearly two decades. They might not have done it the true blue Australian way, but they certainly have provided a true blueprint on how to win in England along the way.
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